Burning Man has facilitated many major changes in my life. Some good, others not so good: “Inspiration” to quit a job that was boring, which went completely sideways during the Great Recession since I was laid off 4 months later. I then quit another job because it was toxic and on the wrong coast. That last inspiration got me to Portland, where I enrolled in school. I’m a 4th year Community Development student at PSU.
I believe Rangering is something I have always done in other eras of my life. Scouting and punk rock community center volunteering seem to be the strongest threads that are most relevant: Compassionate caring, listening, being the one that ‘helps’ etc. Rangering has definitely taught me a few things:
- First, you must listen, and before that, do nothing.
- People can and must resolve their own problems and issues. In fact, we can’t do that at all: solving someone else’s problem.
- And you have to leave the situation eventually, otherwise it’s not ‘solved’. If you have to remain with the conflict to ensure it is ‘good’ then it’s not resolved.
These are the rules to community building.
These three things are the same exact ‘rules’ for Community Development:
- First, you must listen
- Never do anything for anyone that they can do for themselves
- and Leave.
I was pretty shocked and inspired with these rules that are taught in a 300 level class, something that the Ranger Org has codified with the Acronym FLAME. Something that hasn’t cost me much more than an annual ticket and some buttons with witty slogans. Rangering has inspired me to choose Community Development as a degree path. Like Rangering, CD work is not always easy, it requires patience, lots of communication, and tact. The results may not seem like a big deal to the ranger doing the rangering, but the participants in the issue are usually ever so thankful that someone is there to Do Nothing but Listen. And offer options if asked. This looks like community development to me.
I may never do any kind of work with Community Development due to the vagaries of the job market, or (in)aptitude, but FLAMEing the situation will always be a technique that I can use in just about any situation.